Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Read the snow before you go

Avalanche Awareness Week starts Jan. 29

Express Staff Writer

Avalanche rescuers go to work. Photo by Chris Lundy

As love for backcountry winter sports continues to grow, so does the avalanche hazard. In an effort to keep backcountry enthusiasts safe, as well as to educate people about avalanches throughout the area including on Bald Mountain, the Sawtooth National Forest Avalanche Center has established Avalanche Awareness Week Tuesday, Jan. 29, through Monday, Feb. 4.

"It was alarming how many trails were in the snow when there was an avalanche warning earlier this winter," said Janet Kellam, director of the Sawtooth National Forest Avalanche Center. "In spite of that, people went out, and we heard about a lot of close calls."

Kellam hopes that the awareness week will prompt more people to heed avalanche warnings and learn more about snow.

"Avalanche conditions change over time through the course of the season, and people need to adjust and recognize this," Kellam said.

Kellam said the week is about promoting a safe approach to recreating in potential avalanche terrain, providing free avalanche education programs and clinics, as well as increasing use of the Avalanche Center's services.

There will be a banner hanging over Sun Valley Road and there will be a new brochure listing events such as the Avalanche Awareness Program, Tuesday, Jan. 30, from 7 to 8 p.m. at the Community Campus, Room 301, in Hailey. There will also be avalanche rescue beacon clinics on Thursday, Feb. 1, at 3 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 3, at 1 p.m.

The 10th annual Friends of the Sawtooth National Forest Avalanche Center's fundraiser and Best of Banff Film Festival will take place Thursday, Jan. 31, through Saturday, Feb. 3, with doors opening at 6 p.m., at the nexStage Theatre in Ketchum. There will be raffle prizes from which a portion of the proceeds will go to the avalanche center. The center is part of the Sawtooth National Forest Service and operates on a very limited budget, more than half of which comes from grants and partnerships.

Tickets will be $5 available at the door or at Backwoods Mountain Sports and the Elephant's Perch. For additional information, call the Avalanche Center at 622-0095, e-mail or visit

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